Master Juggler!

By: C.W. Stratton

How Many Responsibilities are You Juggling?

“Life is a juggling act that sometimes requires that you drop everything.” ~Linda Poindexter

Life is full of transformative experiences. Many of us may not realize this, but even at this very moment, as you read this, the beginning of a transformative experience is occurring.

We have experiences in our lives where we are not fully present or totally involved. 

Living in our modern society where rushing is the norm, many of us need to be Master Jugglers. 

We think the more responsibilities we juggle, the more essential and accomplished we are.  

Unfortunately, we end up trapping ourselves when we only judge our worth by our responsibilities. 

 Stop for a Moment

In recovery, we must take a healthy risk by stepping away from these things, for a moment, to see what we are actually doing. Others can see us juggling, and they may applaud us, or even go as far as throwing something more into the mix to see if we can continue juggling. 

We become so excited by the applause and cheers, about how good of a job we’re doing, many of us are incapable of saying “enough” or “it’s too much.”

 When We Feel Overwhelmed

In many instances we don’t talk about the overwhelmed feelings because we are fearful of letting others down or we may feel if we were to stop juggling, everything would “fall” apart, or we’re afraid that we’ll return to the destructive behaviors we have worked so hard to stop. Remember that in recovery, the promise is “freedom.” 

In this sense, we define freedom as the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. Typically, we equate being imprisoned or enslaved to active addiction. Now that we’ve made a conscious decision to be a part of the recovery process, our continued efforts should also show other ways in which we imprison ourselves. 

When You Juggle, It’s Hard to See Anything Else

Going back to the analogy of the “juggler,” he/she seems poised and focused on the task at hand, even as spectators throw more objects for them to continue juggling; still, the person is locked-in, and experiences, “myopia.”  

This is a term usually referenced medically; on the eye. In this case, it’s a lack of foresight or imagination. Meaning, we don’t see anything beyond what’s in front of us, just like the juggler.

Juggling and Busy Are Not Recovery 

Dangers can arise if we continue this process in our lives, using it as a way to protect us from returning to old behaviors. You know the thinking, “If I stay busy, I’m good” or “I don’t have time to think about using or not.” 

These are the messages we convey to us that can inevitably hurt our recovery. 

Staying busy doesn’t equal recovery, just like treading water doesn’t mean you’re swimming.

We feel we are in a safe zone when we have many responsibilities that we hope will distract us from the real fears that exist within us. We juggle things, people, obligations, and our recovery to feel productive, like: 

  1. Job (s); some of us work multiple jobs.
  2. School
  3. Relationships
  4. Being a wife or husband
  5. Parenting
  6. Peacemaker
  7. The voice of reason for friends who are struggling
  8. Going to meetings
  9. Personal recovery

Lighten the Load Before You Drop Everything

These are just a few. In many cases, we are trying to juggle them all at once. This seems like a heavy load to carry, but we feel this is essential to our continued efforts to stay clean/sober. We can juggle all these things for a time, but we will have those moments when we are alone and realize we have a lot on our hands. 

However, we wouldn’t dare say this to anyone because we have become so attached to the responsibilities that it begins to define us and our recovery. We have moved further away from the freedom that we seek.

Mixing Up and Juggling our Perspectives

Stepping away for a moment is essential to obtain a better perspective on our lives and our recovery. Acknowledging the need for reflection in our lives can bring about a transformative experience. Speaking to people who have multiple jobs has always been interesting. When I’ve asked if they need to do extra work for financial reasons, many have stated that they just enjoy work. 

Is it a joy to work 12-16 hours a day and not leave time for self-care?

Eventually, they go back to the statement, “I like to stay busy.” This isn’t to say that every person who works multiple jobs, in addition to other responsibilities, will fall short in their recovery, this is about awareness and being honest with ourselves about who the Master Juggler really is.

Me Time and Letting Go

“Letting Go” has been a statement used in the recovery process. We try to leave the other person or situation and allow them to experience what they must. It’s true when we try to juggle too much, as well. 

Sometimes we have to let something fall to gain something greater. 

Me Time is a valuable tool to use in our recovery. The transformation occurs when we get the courage to “let go” of the thing that has burdened us and not allow us to grow in the recovery process. 

We may not know precisely what that thing is, but we must, once again, step away to see our circumstances clearly to embrace the transformative experience fully. 

The experience is enlightening, and it even takes a massive weight from us. It’s like the “Ah-ha” moment. This isn’t something to fear; it’s something to embrace. When we do this, we will truly begin the path to Freedom.

Juggle One Thing and Day at a Time

Most jugglers begin with a couple of things to see if they can handle it or to get a rhythm to keep going. Over time, the juggler adds items, after they feel they have mastered the first things

As recovering people, we tend to take the opposite approach by beginning with the most difficult. As a result, several things occur:

1. Things are taken away from us (not by choice).

2. We lose specific responsibilities due to neglecting them.

3. We burn out and just give up.

4. We become too overwhelmed and drop everything.

5. We say “what’s the use” and return to the destructive behaviors.

A true Master Juggler knows how many objects they can keep in the air, and then catch. We have to have the same awareness in our recovery. 

What’s Right for You?

What can we reasonably carry out on any given day? 

Just because the other juggler has eight items in the air, doesn’t mean that it will work for you. It’s like the old saying; what got me clean, may get you high. 

An essential aspect of the transformative experience is to acknowledge what you can handle and embrace it.

This is not a competition or a race, and our goal is to live life to the fullest and experience with every fiber of our being. 

For us Master Jugglers, One Object At A Time. For All of Us, One Day at a Time. 

Calling All Family Members

By C.W. Stratton

“Alcoholism and other addictions aren’t a spectator sport. Eventually, the whole family gets to play.” ~ Joyce Rebeta Burditt

Addiction affects the addicted individual and impacts the family and those who care about them as well. As many of us know, addiction has an insidious way of restructuring the family and family systems. Family roles become confusing, and the members seem to stumble over one another, figuring out how to fix the problem. Making attempts at fixing the problem creates even more dysfunction within the family dynamic. Families respond to addiction in numerous ways. However, typical responses are listed below:

  • Ignoring the Problem
  • Taking a Harsh Approach
  • Accommodate The Individual
  • Enabling
  • Giving Up
  • Try To Live “Around” The Situation
  • Denial
  • Lack of Trust 

Many families, particularly parents, have a habit of blaming themselves for the individual’s addiction, and blaming statements hinder families in becoming well-informed and aware of the aspects of addiction. Families subconsciously take ownership of the behaviors that the addicted individual displays.   

Some Blaming Statements

Parents blame themselves in various ways. Here are some typical statements made: 

  • I didn’t provide the love they needed
  • Maybe I gave them too much
  • I should have been more attentive
  • Maybe those kids weren’t so bad and I should have let them hang out with…
  • I’m a terrible parent/spouse
  • It’s my fault; I moved us to this neighborhood

 There Must Be Something I Can Do!

There are those families that take a “power and control over the addict” approach. Although they may believe they are in control of the situation, in all reality, they are as out of control as the addict, but for different reasons.  

Parents will attempt to restrict the individual’s movements, withhold financial help, spy on the individual’s every move from cell phone calls to social media activity. The family spends a considerable amount of time spying and watching the individual’s movements, and in the process, they become just as ill as the individual.   

Those families become accustomed to this way of living and never realize that the addicted person still controls their activities, behaviors, and feelings. 

Some Protective Behaviors and Statements of Families

Other families become so fearful of what the individual may do that they transition their thinking and behaviors into protecting the addicted person from harm, without realizing that they may prolong the addiction and increase the risk of overdose and death. Some common behaviors and statements include:

  • I give them money so they don’t commit a crime.
  • I’d rather they use here; at least, I know where they are or what they’re doing.
  • I have to bail them out of jail because that’s not a good place.
  • I can’t tell the rest of the family what has been going on.
  • I’ll take you to get your alcohol/drugs because I don’t want you using the car.
  • Just don’t bring the stuff around here.
  • Call me if you’re too high to get home, I’ll pick you up.
  • One parent lets the individual come home only when the other parent isn’t present.
  • Don’t tell your father/mother I gave you the money.

With these behaviors and statements, families feel that they have control of the situation. However, knowing what the individual is doing and protecting them from harm doesn’t provide an avenue for the individual and family to get better. It enables the addicted person to continue the behavior and not have an opportunity of seeing the dangers and damage they’ve created. 

Their Fixes Aren’t Working on Me!

The addicted individual will guilt loved ones into accepting their actions or even threaten self-harm to get what they want, often to continue using. There still exists the illusion of control for the parents or spouse despite the evident chaos. Families adapt to the addicted individual, which makes it comfortable for that person to continue using. Even though enabling isn’t the family intent, this is often the outcome. 

When the Addict Wants to Fix Themselves

There does come a time when the addicted individual experiences a crisis or a consequence that begins to put things in perspective that may result in the person contemplating the need to make changes in their lives. Some life-altering experiences include: 

  • Loss of family relations 
  • Homelessness 
  • Loss of employment 
  • Health concerns 
  • Criminal justice involvement

Sometimes the individual becomes “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” When the addict decides to make changes, the family systems experience another adjustment. 

While the individual may no longer be using, some family responses during active addiction remain during the recovery process, and families often have a hard time understanding their new role.  

They no longer feel in control; they no longer feel needed. When these feeling bubble up, the parents can then feel jealous of new recovery options like meetings and sponsors, or they are unwilling to establish trust again. 

Family Statements and Behaviors During Recovery Process

Not every family responds the same when the addicted individual enters the recovery process, but reactions occur. However, almost all family members are unsure of their role. 

They often feel lost, confused, or become so overbearing toward the individual that it strains the relationships even further. When the family does not know what new actions and responses to use or hasn’t gotten help for themselves, they tend to maintain some of their past thoughts.

  • Are they clean?
  • They look high, but I’m not sure.
  • When can we trust them? 
  • Where are they going with those new friends? 
  • The family searches the rooms when the addict is gone. 
  • The family still hides valuables.
  • They haven’t asked me to take them anywhere; what are they up to? 
  • How do we interact and relate to this new person? 
  • They haven’t asked to borrow money. Is that a good thing? 
  • Is there someone looking for them because they haven’t left the house all day?
  • Who are these new people they are hanging around? They look shady.

The now recovering person experiences difficulties initially due to the ongoing mistrust and lack of confidence that the family has regarding the individual making changes in their lives. We know that families want the best for the individual but are unaware of how to support and encourage the person and their changes. 

Fixing the Whole Family

Addiction is a family disease in which all members need to find ways to heal. Only identifying the addicted individual as the issue within the household isolates the person and doesn’t provide an opportunity to expose the exact nature of when, why, and how things occurred. 

For families to reunite or become a unit again, all parties should take the time to look at themselves and ask the question; am I helping fix the situation or contributing to the problem?

This question may be challenging to answer. If you are a family member in this situation, look at what’s going on and think about how important the addicted individual is to you.  

Addiction must be exposed; hiding it only prolongs the use and the possibility of more destruction. We are battling a severe epidemic in our communities and the rest of the world. It’s time to fight for ourselves and our loved ones.  

It is a matter of life or death. Addiction is a family disease. Let’s heal together.

Know Your Family Resources 

There are self-help groups and additional counseling for family members of the addicted person, which can help on so many different levels. Family Resources: 

Resources for Families Coping with Mental and Substance Use Disorders | SAMHSA

Addiction Resources and Help for Families | Hazelden Betty Ford

Support Groups for Families of Drug Addicted & Alcoholic Persons (

Addiction: Is There An Answer? 

C.W. Stratton

There are many reasons that an individual starts down the path of addiction. People have studied addiction, looking for ‘the answer.’ Many of us acknowledge that not a single reason equates to full-blown addiction. 

The many studies, theories, opinions, and research around the subject still have many people scratching their heads, resulting in assumptions about the cause. Some things that are known to be contributing factors include:

  1. Genetic Factors
  2. Environmental Factors
  3. Psychological Factors

Although these are significant factors associated with addiction, we still wonder – why do people use? 

If we look at genetics as a contributing factor, the gene identified within the person doesn’t eventually fire off at a moment’s notice. The person decides to use a given substance; despite never being a user of substances. People don’t wake up one morning and say, “I’ll go to the liquor store and start drinking every day,” or, “I think I’ll find the neighborhood dope dealer and become a regular customer.”

The environmental cause doesn’t mean the person “catches addiction” like you would catch a cold. However, poverty, lack of educational opportunities, and poor role models all contribute. 

We have to look at the individual’s psychological makeup to determine why someone would use substances and become addicted. 

I know, I know, these three factors can be viewed deeper, including research and study outcomes. However, each of the three categories has a common denominator – feelings and emotions. 

Whatever The Reasons, There Are Feelings And Emotions 

You know feelings – those things that we do our best to guard and to avoid discussing. But beyond more research, there are reasons we know. People use to change the way they feel. Whether it is to change their feelings or to bury the feelings, they are having. We hear this most often talked about in recovery support meetings, too.  

The way we deal with feelings often dictates how our day will be and how we respond or react to different situations.

Feelings and Emotions Challenge Us

Feelings and emotions also challenge our commitment to the recovery process.  A feeling is an emotional state or reaction. At the same time, emotion is a natural, instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationship with others.  In many instances, the two tend to be confused with one another.

Reflecting on the internal reasons people engage in destructive/addictive behavior, feelings or emotions often fuel their thoughts and actions. A good example is that feeling of inadequacy. We may feel inadequate in specific settings or situations.  

However, some people feel inadequate in most situations, no matter the circumstances. 

These people may yearn to have this feeling quieted, especially as they see their peers presenting as confident, secure, and comfortable in those social situations. 

Feelings Fuel Our Decisions

“Preaching at people about behaviours, even self-destructive ones, did little good when I didn’t or couldn’t help them with the emotional dynamics driving those behaviours.”― Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

Feelings and emotions are known to drive our decision-making. Being controlled by these is dangerous and detrimental to our recovery. The following is a partial list of complicated feelings and emotions and may lead a person back to use.

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Being Overwhelmed
  • Depressed
  • Excitement
  • Frustration
  • Guilt
  • Happiness
  • Inadequacy
  • Insecurity
  • Shame

We can add many more because it doesn’t matter what we are experiencing, but our response to it is most critical. 

We’re going to have many feelings and emotions, and the root of these often comes from outside sources, which means we can control how we respond and whether we choose to return to active addiction because we don’t like the way we’re feeling. 

Active Addiction Can Stop If We Don’t Relapse

Being reactive to situations that arise in our lives places us at greater risk for relapse. And, when this does occur, we often realize that we should have handled a given situation differently and not reacted to our feelings and emotions. 

As a result, we may continue to use substances after that relapse. If we are lucky, we will get another opportunity to recover. It takes weeks, months, and even years for some to get back into recovery. The delay in returning to meetings or reconnecting with those who had previously supported us isn’t always connected to the obsession and compulsion to use; it’s sometimes centered around the guilt and shame that we acquired along with way. 

Guilt and Shame Keep People in Active Addiction 

These two feelings can destroy the core of an individual, especially as it relates to recovery. We are ashamed to let those know we returned to active addiction. We become consumed with guilt about our actions. Often, we’ll think that if we don’t go back to those meetings, everyone will assume we’re going to other meetings. 

We say to ourselves, “I’ll never go back to that meeting; maybe I’ll try to hold on and make it seem that everything’s alright.” As we continue with these thoughts, the delay in returning to the very place that has saved us and provided a new life for ourselves becomes even greater. 

I Know That Feeling and Emotion

Over time, we can get to a place where feelings and emotions no longer dictate the directions in which we go. Being able to name specific emotions and feelings as they arise is critical in this process. 

Many have the instinct to run and hide when certain emotions or feelings emerge. The running or hiding sometimes manifests as acting out in some way.

We either turn on others, but most importantly, we turn on ourselves. Reflect on a time where an outside source provoked intense feelings or emotions (someone disrespected you, hurt you, or embarrassed you), and the automatic thought is to lash out or react in some way. 

When we don’t address the matter head-on, our behavior tends to display, “I’ll show you, I’ll hurt me.” We do something destructive that will only impact our lives and not affect the other person – that’ ‘turning on ourselves.’

Feelings and emotions will always exist; we won’t be able to avoid them as they surface. Managing them and acquiring healthy ways to respond are most important. We must begin working through them and fully experience the feeling and emotion to understand better what it’s all about. Or to find out why we respond and react to certain things as we do. Everyone doesn’t react to a given feeling or emotion that same way. 

Go Ahead and Feel It

Some subconsciously talk themselves out of an appropriate response by going back to the “default” response. We return to what’s familiar but not necessarily comfortable. Look at what your given “default” response is, then assess the results of it. I’m sure we can find “fault” with the “default.” 

Many of our responses to situations are related to our belief systems. Our belief systems have affected us on many levels. We learned these from one another through observation, imitating, and modeling. From the beginning of our lives, we know how to respond to certain situations based on how others have. 

We adopted this to the point that we believe this is just who I am and how I am. My position is that it’s only an excuse not to do the work to get a better outcome of what we are seeking. This is an example of how our beliefs can impact our recovery.

Your friend, family member, or spouse tells you “no” to something, or they are critical toward you about an action you have taken. We believe that this person is mean, doesn’t know what they are talking about, or doesn’t want us to succeed in this process. 

Then we get angry, upset, hurt, or even embarrassed. What we tend to do is curse, slam doors, stop talking to the person, and even go as far as to use substances. The domino effect (from beliefs to feelings to actions) can be catastrophic. This example is an activating event.  

Feelings and Emotions Activate the Events

 We have allowed many events to control our feelings, emotions, and actions. We have made them responsible for how we think, feel, and act. Now, it’s time to return this control to ourselves.

Recovery helps people get a different perspective on their lives. This process isn’t just about “not using” substances; this also requires an internal transformation. 

We have responded to many things in ways we have regretted and wish we had a do-over. Learning from the outcomes of our reactive and impulsive behavior of the past is crucial. We are not perfect, but to measure the quality (not quantity) of recovery, we must look further within. 

Internal battles do not have to last a lifetime – we can bring peace to our recovery, and peaceful is a feeling and emotion that’s worth working towards. 

Out with the Old – In with the New

C.W. Stratton

       “Your life does not get better by chance; it gets better by change.” -Jim Rohn

Recovery consists of making significant adjustments in our lives. New in recovery, we have a lot of baggage that’s weighed us down for years. 

All that excess baggage often dictates how we move through the world. And for most of us, that baggage is cumbersome and restricts us from entering many places.  

Due to this heavy load and the room it has taken up in our lives, we had trouble fitting in anywhere.   

However, if we’re going to flourish in our recovery, we have to examine that baggage. It’s time to go through some of those pieces and rid ourselves of what is still harming our recovery.

“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.”― Jim Rohn

People: Finding New Connections 

We have formed connections with some fascinating people during active addiction; we were loyal to these individuals to a fault. Even after deciding to turn our lives around and enter recovery, we continued being loyal to them. Despite all the suggestions we’ve heard in counseling and meetings, we continued to hold on, even when people cautioned us that our continued association with them could be devastating to our recovery.  

We made excuses for these individuals, and we made excuses for why we continued associating with them. Through trial and error and, in some cases, a relapse, we realized that changing our associations and connections is key to our growth and development in the recovery process. So, how can you start breaking away from those old associations? 

  1. Begin reaching out to those in recovery
  2. Get involved in recovery based functions
  3. Enquire about making a commitment in a given meeting (being a coffee maker or greeter)
  4. Obtain a sponsor
  5. Talk to those who you wouldn’t normally speak to that are in self-help meetings
  6. Don’t focus on individual differences; look at similarities when trying to make a new connection

As adults, it seems that many of us have a difficult time making new friends. I would jokingly suggest those with children follow their children around and they’ll teach you how to make friends.

Some of us think we don’t need more friends, but when we look at our friends, there is a distinct connection between those people and active addiction. In other words, the only thing we had in common was the act of using substances together. Think about how easy it was to talk to a stranger to get your drug of choice or talk to the liquor store man you’ve never met, but you spoke to them with ease.

A simple, “Hello, my name is…” We are now beginning conversations to enhance our lives, not to destroy our lives anymore.

And remember, they didn’t know how to be social when they entered the rooms, either. 

Places: Finding Somewhere New 

We maintained rituals and routines during our use of substances. There were places that we would go to like clockwork. If someone were observing our daily movements during this time, they would know where we were and consistently going. Some of us went to the local bar or liquor store right after work (or before), and even the merchants could predict when we would arrive.  

Today, we must begin with new routines and rituals that are healthy and conducive to our recovery. Here are a few changes we can make: 

  1. Attend a meeting before or after work
  2. Ask a few people from your support network out for dinner
  3. There are recovery events that local 12-step meeting groups organize (dances, hiking, camping, etc.)
  4. Locate social events that will not harm your recovery

Things: Look for the Triggers

This area may seem a little difficult to avoid.  Some have difficulty hearing a soda can opened in a recovery support meeting – it has taken people to the times of drinking, the first one.

Sound and smell memories are wired into our brains. Considering this, we may want to work further on the cognitive aspect of the recovery process. For example, we know that the sound of a soda can opening may actually be a soda can and not a beer.  

Given this, we must acknowledge that we have worked diligently on our recovery and have made the needed changes to avoid high-risk situations.  Over time, certain sounds are just the sounds of the environment around us.  

These adjustments to our reactions don’t happen overnight, but with time we overcome those recalls. Also identified was a song(s) that may remind us of using substances. Making changes to the things in our lives that have impacted our life’s negativity is crucial:

  1. When it comes to a specific song that reminded us of using, we have a wide variety of choices and genres of music that we can now enjoy without that recall.
  2. Certain smells that bring us back to that time require us to modify our thinking and realize that we are no longer in those places where we used substances; we are in a safer place in our lives.
  3. Lighters, spoons, or other things we use in getting high have their normal function. Lighters are used in everyday society for different uses other than substances. Spoons are utensils used for eating. It may sound easier said than done, but as the quality of our recovery increases, we change our thinking about these things.

Getting Back to New Basics

I find it helpful and inspiring to look back at and identify things we used to enjoy doing before drugs and alcohol became the priority. I’m sure we can remember quite a few. However, once we introduced substances, we discontinued those enjoyable things.  

Some of us may say, “I don’t do that anymore” or “I’m too old to do that now.”  Those are excuses used not to revisit those things. Here are some things many recovering people have identified as enjoyable that they discontinued doing in their active addiction:

  1. Being creative with their hands
  2. Drawing
  3. Hiking
  4. Riding a bike
  5. Just taking a walk in the park observing the natural environment
  6. Reading or Writing
  7. Playing an instrument
  8. Sports (actually playing the sport for leisure activity)

Change Doesn’t Have to be Dreary

“When you know what you want, and you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to get it.”― Jim Rohn

Recovery is a process of absolute change. We must change the way we think about ourselves and the things around us. Recovering people must have increased awareness of the high-risk situations that can lead to relapse. Change is uncomfortable, but being uncomfortable to better ourselves is less painful than continuing to use substances and creating havoc on yourself with only having three options available; jails, institutions, and death.

While this isn’t a definitive list of things to replace, this will give a basic premise and a starting point for change. We must dig deep within ourselves and decide what is most important. If we can say “WE” are more important, we must begin that uncomfortable journey of resolve and healing. We don’t always have to wait until the pain is too much to bear to make life changes. Please make the needed changes; your recovery and life depend on it.

Mental Health and The Black Male-pt. 1

invisiblecrisisC.W. Stratton

We all have mental health, but we all do not have mental illness…”

Through the years, there have been absolute evidence that much of the services and supports that individuals utilize on a daily basis in order to better cope with certain emotions/feelings or mental disorders, has not been proven helpful or effective to “everyone”.  The history also points to the African American’s reluctance to seek assistance or to speak with someone from the dominant culture (White population). Many of us do not immediately connect this reluctance to the history or racism, prejudice, slavery, and discrimination; which are integral parts of American history and of the African American experience.  This writing is not to continue rehashing the history or to create a Us vs Them situation.  It’s about enlightening and informing, in an effort to begin healing during the current climate we are in.  There are some communities that are really in crisis and some do not even acknowledge it.  This moment of crisis can either break everyone or create solid supports to assist those who are suffering.

Seeking help for intense emotions, confusion, fears, substance use, or cognitive difficulties was something that was not sought.  If you were to even bring it up, the messages received was that you were weak, you were told to suck it up, man-up, or just get over it.  I’m my earlier years, the phrase was “put a H on your chest and handle it”.  In knowing this or hearing this, you would never ask for help with what you were experiencing.  So, you just hold on and stuff the feelings. These messages have been handed down from one generation to the next.  Even today, many of us as adults, are relaying this to our young people.  This is unfortunate. Many of us remember and know the old adage, “what goes on my in house stays in my house”.  We may have heard this from our parents, other family members, or some of us are relaying this same message to our young today.  When this is being relayed to anyone in the home, especially to a young person, it can be troubling in the long run.  If I have to utter these words at any point means that something occurring in the home shouldn’t be occurring.  These things could be:

*Verbal Abuse

*Emotional Abuse


*Illegal Activity

*Neglect (lack of food, cleanliness, or care)

*Other forms of Abuse

*Substance Use

*Abruptly Absent Parent (due to incarceration)

*Emotionally Unavailable Parent

So, we tell our young people in our homes to be sure to keep all of these things a secret and go out into the world and be the best person they can be. However, when they screw up in the process they will be punished on some level.  Just imagine that. That’s a lot to put on a young person to carry around and expect them to be fully functioning and worry-free individuals. Many of the above listed issues that are present in the home will or can result in forms of “trauma”.  Trauma isn’t just about being a victim of a violent situation or crime.  Being witness to many of those things listed have a great potential to result in trauma.  As you can notice, “emotionally unavailable parent” is list as well.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, “I take care of mine” or “they don’t need for nothing”. Yes, we can house a child and buy them things, but are we emotionally available for them, when they are in need?  When a parent isn’t there at this level, it can be devastating.

Now, we are seeing a lot of young black males acting out in so many ways that are damaging to themselves and to the communities in which they live.  The acts of violence, neglect of others, and perpetuation of the “no snitching” mentality is a direct manifestation of what they’ve experienced and learned at a very early age for many (don’t talk, don’t tell).  These are the same messages they’ve probably heard over and over when they were little boys until it became common practice.  They become most loyal to those who will do them the worse harm.  They begin exhibiting some of the same actions they’ve either witnessed at home or on their block.  Keep in mind that trauma related responses can manifest into a person becoming a perpetrator of such violence or neglect.  Some retaliations are about fear and survival tactics related to trauma. This isn’t about blame, but a way to bring some of what is being seen to the forefront.

Think of adult men who have gone through some of the same things and have never addressed it.  Many are currently struggling to keep it together or they may have difficulty managing their own emotions, despite now being an adult.  That same fear instilled in them at an early age about seeking counseling or guidance from a professional, still exists.  How do we reach these individuals to help them move out of fear and into healing?   It is imperative that we act now.

As a clinician/therapist, it is acknowledged that many service centers or agencies have psychological testing the tend to result in skewed results.  Meaning, many of the assessment tools used are not culturally competent, or they do not really address the needs of the African American client, nor do they put into account the experiences of this such client when considering providing services.  This may not mean much to you at the moment, but I needed to mention this because this is an added reason that help isn’t sought.  It’s time to create a space for Black Males in order to speak their truth and begin to heal. There are a number of qualified professionals and paraprofessionals that can assist and guide.  However, the courage to change must be included in order to do so. Having more culturally competent assessment tools and services that not only address client deficits (lack of education, unemployed, substance use, criminal history, homelessness, etc.), but address the characteristics that this population of people bring to counseling sessions is critical. This will be an ongoing matter that should be addressed. Some may disagree with what’s said here, but it’s paramount the we at least begin conversation.

The Burn Within

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The moments come and go.  The sheer desire to recapture some of those moments, because many of them were opportunities, can have such a negative impact on our moving forward in our course of life.  The aspect of remaining with the status quo, in many instances, is the reason we allow opportunities to pass by.  Is this about fear?  Is it about the concern of what others will think?  Or, can it be that deep down you may not truly believe you deserve something better that what you currently have?  Possibly, it can be something other than what was mentioned.  When it’s all said and done, you will know the true reason for missed opportunities; not the excuses you may relay to others.

Conditioning is the idea of training or accustoming a person to behave in a certain way. Many of us have been conditioned to behave and respond to certain things in a particular way.  For the more open-minded individual, assessing your life experiences and closely looking at your responses to new things that may arise in your life, is critical. When something different or new arises, is the response “oh this is new, I’m very interested in this”.  Or, is the new thing or situation scrutinized and dissected before it’s really investigated?  Not to mention if others are initially scrutinizing the new thing, many of us will fall in line with the same scrutinizing response.  This is the in-group/out-group idea.  Many of us would prefer to be a part of the group opposed to outside the group; even if you don’t internally agree with the consensus.  Some will tolerate the burn within the soul to remain with the group.  What is this about?

There was a time when making a decision on my own, or having an independent thought, despite what the majority said, was the most frightening thing.  We ultimately take stock in what others think, despite what we tend to say verbally. However, is it good stock or bad stock?  Learning to hear the positive messages takes a level of mindfulness and determination if you are to fulfill those innate passions in life.  The whole idea of being alone with making a decision or having an independent voice about a given subject can be intimidating for some.  To relay your truth and have your voice heard requires risk.  Risks have been taken by some of the most productive and inspiring people. Wouldn’t you like to be productive and inspiring?

The fear can’t be allowed to restrict you from your goals in life. You are a person with individual thoughts and feelings. Have you ever been in a situation when a group that you were a part of were making a decision about something and you didn’t agree with the decision, but you didn’t speak up to present the idea you had, and the outcome wasn’t good?  What did you tell yourself?  Did you tell anyone the idea you had?  This is something that occurs regularly, and the result is regret and resentment towards self. Remember there are some places we just don’t fit in, because they are too small for us.

It’s time to recondition the mind and get rid of the box that has been built around you. It’s not just about thinking outside the box, because that’s only for a moment; the box must be destroyed.

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